A fairly narrow valley about 220 yards (200 m) wide that opens up about a mile (1.5 km) from the cultivable lands and 5 miles (8 km) south of Dayr al-Balay’zah. It is about a mile (1.5 km) long, but the inhabitants developed only its mouth. There are some quarries equipped as a church with frescoes, and cells were constructed on the slopes.
This site was excavated by an English team from the Byzantine Research Fund during the winter of 1913/1914. Unfortunately World War I dispersed the excavators, who were unable to publish the full results of their work. We have the introduction to The Excavations at Wadi Sarga by R. Campbell Thomson, director of the excavations, and the texts. The general plan of the site was published with an introduction to the excavations (Crum and Bell, 1922, pp. 1-5). The essential question was posed by Crum (p. 10): whether it is a site of a cenobium or of a colony of anchorites. There are indications that it was a cenobium, for in the texts there is a superior who has the title of archimandrite and acts in the name of the council of the monastery. A wall of large stones was erected around the buildings. The monks used and decorated ancient quarries, out of which they made their church. The paintings in this church have not been published.
The Greek and Coptic texts have been published (Crum and Bell, 1922). A fresco representing the three young men in the furnace has been restored and placed in the British Museum. It derives from a neighboring site, and has often been reproduced.
The state of the ruins today is presented by Meinardus (1965, pp. 288-89; 1977, pp. 398-99).
- Crum, W. E., and H. I. Bell. The Excavations at Wad Sarga. Coptica 3. Copenhagen, 1922.
- Dalton, O. M. “A Coptic Wall-painting from Wadi Sarga.” Journal of Egyptian Archeology 3 (1916):35-37.
- Meinardus, O. Christian Egypt, Ancient and Modern. Cairo, 1965; 2nd ed., 1977.
MAURICE MARTIN, S.J.